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Mortgage Rates Hit Six-Week Low

Average fixed mortgage rates declined for the second straight week, bringing them to a six-week low—and easing affordability conditions slightly as the homebuying season gets under way. Frank Nothaft, VP and chief economist for Freddie Mac, said the latest decline fits with a disappointing—though not dismal—construction report showing homebuilding rising at a rate of 2.8 percent in March.

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PNC Reports Solid First-Quarter Earnings

PNC Financial Services Group released its quarterly earnings, reporting a net income of $1.1 billion, or $1.82 per diluted common share. The group found that consumer lending decreased by $1 billion, from "lower home equity, residential mortgage and education loans as well as seasonal declines in credit card loans partially offset by growth in automobile loans."

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California Home Sales Come in Below Average

According to DataQuick, California home sales were up 28.2 percent in February but down 12.8 percent from March 2013. While many are predicting a recovery in California, last month’s sales were the lowest for a March since 2008, when 24,565 homes sold—a record low for the month of March. Last month's sales were 23.9 percent below the average of 43,251 sales for all months of March since 1988, when DataQuick's statistics begin.

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Equity Gains Slow; 9.1M Homes Still ‘Seriously Underwater’

RealtyTrac estimates 9.1 million U.S. homes were seriously underwater in the year's first quarter, representing a slow improvement over the past few years. "U.S. homeowners are continuing to recover equity lost during the Great Recession, but the pace of that recovering equity slowed in the first quarter, corresponding to slowing home price appreciation," said Daren Blomquist, VP at RealtyTrac.

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Closing Rate Up on March Loans; Time to Close Down

Lenders closed on a greater share of mortgages last month compared to February—and they did it at a faster pace, according to mortgage software provider Ellie Mae. The company’s latest Origination Insight Report, released this week, shows that out of a sampling of loan applications initiated 90 days prior to March, 58 percent closed last month. That rate is up from 55.3 percent in February and from the 2013 average of 54 percent.

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Pennsylvania Bank Honored by State Finance Agency

Jersey Shore State Bank, a subsidiary of Penns Woods Bancorp, Inc., was recognized by the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) for its 2013 performance. The bank's mortgage services division received a high producer ranking of PHFA loans in Pennsylvania, top lender in PHFA HOMEstead loans, and the top producer of new PHFA construction loans.

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FHLBank Advances Surging Among Largest Institutions

Secured loans, or advances, from the Federal Home Loan Banks system to lenders dried up significantly after the market crash of 2008, when the loans peaked at about $1 trillion. But since then, advances have risen to $492 billion, largely due to a flood of secured loans to the system's four largest members—JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Citibank. These lenders accounted for $135 billion of the contributions through 2013.

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Fed Districts Report Economic Growth as Weather Clears

Reports from the Federal Reserve’s 12 districts indicate economic activity has increased in most regions across the country since the end of February as the unusually harsh winter came to an end. According to the most recent update, eight districts—Boston, Philadelphia, Richmond, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco—characterized their economic expansion from March to April as “modest or moderate.”

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